SHAH ALAM: MUCH of the focus of the Armed Forces are now towards the increasing the size, lethality and firepower of the Army. Though I – as an armchair observer – regard up-sizing the Army as a step in the wrong direction (and expensive), I cannot but help offer a pointer or two on the latter objectives for those in the planning department or business development divisions (if they are reading this of course).
As for boosting the lethality and firepower, I heartily agree to any efforts to do so though I do not think the mini-guns will actually do so. In fact, any additional lethality and firepower should be prioritised to the mainstay of the Army – the RMR and RRR battalions.
I believed one of the ways is to issue man-packable loitering munition together with portable drones for ISR at the platoon level. Yes, there are other means to boost the lethality and firepower of a rifle platoon but the portable drone is powerful enough (for its size) and light enough for the average 60-kg soldier to carry on their backs without reducing their effectiveness.
Furthermore, if it could be useful to the rifle platoon , it would also do the same for Special Forces operators. Such small drones could also be carried and fired from patrol boats to target anything carrying terrorists or pirates. Its like having your own Close-Air Support without the hassle of contacting attack helicopters or the air force and the complexities of such close co-ordination entails.
Launching the portable drone in a dense jungle could be problematic, I must admit, though. However, as our soldiers are expected to fight in all sorts of environment nowdays, I am pretty sure our soldiers could make full use of the portable drones after undergoing extensive training on them. Which is likely to be less time consuming and less expensive than training for CAS (though it may yet be necessary).
Yes, a single portable drone could cost RM1 million per example but its cheaper than the lives of our soldiers. Of course, mortar rounds are cheaper but the rifle platoon could carry several 60mm mortar as well as the loitering munition by spreading them down the line. Though its still a ….I must admit to carry more things on your back.
According to an article at Defence Tech there are various loitering munition platforms readily available for procurement to meet UOR. More importantly, it appears that unlike armed UAVs, loitering munitions do not have any extensive export restrictions.
“In the U.S., the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System is only progressing slowly towards becoming a program of record. This is in spite of the successes achieved by the successful fielding of Switchblade drones under the program.
Made by AeroVironment Inc., the Switchblade weighs less than five pounds and its electric propulsion is near-silent. It is tube-launched, with flick-out wings, and can fly for more than ten minutes, sending back color video and infra-red imagery so the operator can locate and identify a target. Once spotted, it can lock on and dive in at over 90mph with a warhead powerful enough to take out a pickup truck or a group of individuals with pinpoint precision from six miles away.
Apart from the Switchblade there are other loitering munition platforms available from at least two other US companies. If buying from the US is not preferred, there are also options from Poland and Iran (yes, the Israelis also made them and probably China too) as stated by the Defense Tech article.
The Polish product, Warmate from WB Electronics, is interesting as a soldier in the field could change the payloads from an ISR equipment to HEAT warhead for vehicles or HE for personnel. However, such capability comes with a price, it is much heavier compared lets say to the Switchblade.
From the pictures (above and below), the Warmate may be more suited to a mechanised rifle platoon. The company claimed it has sold the drone to an unnamed Asian customer though it is unlikely it was Malaysia.
What about building it on our own by simply modifying a commercial drone to carry a warhead or an ISR package as done by some people in the Middle East? Yes we could do that of course but not to the expense of waiting three or four years when our soldiers need every help they can right now. And it is less likely to be easily carried in the field.
I feel so strongly about this that perhaps I may just set up a company to lobby and sell these devices to the Army, like how others did for a lot of stuff of the Armed Forces (though I must admit I hate the idea of begging though the thought of driving a Panamera GTS is quite tempting).
By the way if you have an idea to boost the lethality and firepower of our light infantry units – not something that will be a hangar queen at brigade or divisional level – drop me an article on my email. I will use it as a guest post.
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